Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Year's End

Here I am anticipating a gathering of friends at one of their houses to toast the end of another good year, many more of the years under my belt than most of them, including the woman who will accompany me.  The year has brought a number of blessings; good things keep coming my way, for which I am always grateful and hope to continue to be.  Thanks to all who are part of it.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Prepping for Winter

This weekend saw the motorcycle go to storage, the lawnmowers go likewise.  The tiller is put away.  The cool old Royal Scotsman bicycle is stored.  The Maxima is back in the garage where winter can't get at it so easily.
But we still have things to do.  We have not yet fired up the wood stove, and all the firewood is still out behind the garage.  There is still plenty of wood to split.  Work still to do.  Our plan is to bring a significant pile of wood into the three-season porch where we can load up without getting our boots on.
We'll see how things go as the days unfold.  Cold is coming (but not today).

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Nanocon and Writing for Game Designers

Panelists at Nanocon, including Rich Graham, far left, Jeff Howard, far right, and Seth Hudson, in tie.
Here are my summary notes on "Writing through Games:  Merging the Writing Classroom with Game Design" by Seth Hudson 11/10/13, a part of Nanocon 2013 at Dakota State University.

Hudson, who teaches writing for games at George Mason University in the Computer Game Design Program, gave a talk to prospective game designers on making writing a component of their quest for success in the industry.  His talk, lively, interesting, full of references to games, movies, and books, prompted laughs, recognition, and questions at the conclusion.  
My notes on his talk are as follows. 

Stop writing the same thing
Respect yourself (and your audience) enough to edit

“Tell me something, then tell me why I should care.”  Kamholtz  (It’s the “so what?” question)

3-act structure
context, goals conflict resolution

Volder’s Hero’s Journey
“It’s theory, not a formula.” 

Academic paper:  Specific, Contextualized, Useful

Observing conventions

Realize that audience is the real key (audience and user)
Writing classroom
Audience driven:  if it’s not written down, it doesn’t count.  Both academic papers and creative ones need to keep audience in mind. 
Collaborative:  learn to give criticism; you get to be a better judge of your own work (always be reading other people’s work).  Criticism as a series of questions—why did you give that character that dialect.  Digital feedback as an extension of critical commentary.  Everyone gets better in collaboration.
Iterative:  Developing voice.  A long process.  “Writing is revision.”  Shitty first drafts.  Writing a shitty first draft is easier than writing a good one. 
Portfolio-centric:  focus on collective work.  NP (not proficient) grades.  Formative assessment vs. summative.  Formative is how you are developing; summative is what’s at the end of the process.  The identity comes from a lifetime of experience, not just their collective course content.  Passions beyond technical skill set students apart from others in their field. Studios look for people who have higher order skills that are hard to display on a resume.  (Swacha et al 2010).  Communicate a lifetime of experience. 

Writing classroom as a preparation for collaborative game projects.  Power of reflection and criticism. 
Find out what works, establish a voice, overcome your fears. 

Judge the work, not the person.  Avoid the “you suck.” Teach responding. 

Salvo #997

After five days away from home in Madison, SD, it's good to be home, ready for catching up with school and home maintenance and getting ready for winter.  It was a good trip though to St. Charles, IL, for workshops designed for schools seeking to maintain their accreditation.  The workshops helped our team move from an idea to a fully-fledged plan for making a significant improvement in life at DSU.  Thank you to those folks at AQIP for leading the show.

Monday, October 14, 2013

At My Door the Leaves are Falling

This morning the song in my head is one by Johnny Cash, "I Still Miss Someone," as it describes the mournful loss of a loved one, set against the the falling leaves and the wild winds, both of which are going on outside my windows.  The wind is whipping out of the south, leaves tearing off the trees and covering the yard once again.
The welcome rain comes as a marking of the end of our summer days, a blast of what is to come as we move into the fall season.  It's been a long haul with little or no rain to speak of, and the grass and trees have shown their stress, turning brown and sere as the long dry spell went on.
It has now rained steadily all morning, and with some luck it will continue.  Certainly the farmers don't have the same perspective, since many of their crops are still in the field.  But we'll take it, we lawn farmers.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Tom Hueners in the SD COOP Hall of Fame

Thomas E. Hueners might have retired to his farm south of Winfred, but he’s not finished winning awards.  Hueners was inducted Tuesday night into the South Dakota Cooperative Hall of Fame at Cedar Shore Resort in Oacoma.  Accompanied by his family and fellow coop members, Hueners accepted the award for his 40 years of service on the board of directors for TrioTel Communications (formerly McCook Cooperative Telephone Company). 

Tom’s father John served on the same board for almost 20 years, with Tom taking his place after John passed away in 1973.  Together they represent six decades of service to TrioTel, located in Salem, providing telephone, internet, television, and surveillance services, supporting the communications needs of the region for more than 60 years. 

Hueners was inducted into the Hall of Fame with two others this year, John D. Johnson of Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, and Loren Noess, of Mitchell.  Hueners  and the other two join only 61 other members in the Hall of Fame. 

As anyone who has worked with Tom Hueners knows, he works hard to make life better for his family, friends, and neighbors.  That desire is a good fit for a local cooperative, which functions to help the community prosper and grow.   This dedication was noted in the letters written to support his nomination to the Hall of Fame.  “With a calm, quiet disposition, he has led one of the smallest cooperatives in the state of South Dakota to a prosperous and one of the most advanced telecommunications providers in the U.S.,” wrote TrioTel general manager and CEO Bryan Roth. 

Hueners has been a farmer for more than 50 years, living and working the farm that his grandfather and his father worked before him, one of the South Dakota Century Farms.  He also spent 32 years as a rural mail carrier, driving a route west of Madison. 

Hueners recently celebrated 50 years of marriage to his wife Karen, and their three children still live in the area.  He and Karen have eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.  Hueners devotes time to St. John’s Lutheran Church in Howard and spends time working around the farm and enjoying his growing family.   

In his acceptance speech, Hueners pointed out what a pleasure it was to serve on the board, noting the support of his family and the other board members. He gave special thanks to his wife Karen, whose support helped make up for time spent traveling and working on board duties.   

Hueners continues to serve on the board at TrioTel and serves as the secretary/treasurer, along with Roth, Ron Sandine, Kenny Klinkhammer, Kevin Erikson, Terry Schroeder, Bob Matthaei, and Richard Dewald.  C

Monday, August 26, 2013

Back to School Again

Here we are at the end of the first day of classes for the fall semester.  I reminded my students on this hot August day that they should think of the person they will be in December, someone who will appreciate the good work that their past self did in August, September, and the months to follow.  Wednesday they'll show me what writing they can do in 50 minutes, responding to a standard assignment and trying to provide an overview, launch into a discussion, and bring in some resources to support and develop their ideas.

This semester I'm looking at some additional work, including a major campus committee, serving on a search committee, and finding time to (perhaps) jump out of an airplane.   I hope to do better with my own writing, and contributing to this blog.

The blog helps me pay attention to what's going on around me, from the reaction of students to their new situations, to seeing the leaves in our yard begin to dry and curl and fall into the yard.  So, here we go again.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Bears and the BWCA

Just heard a story the other day about the BWCA and bears.  We're looking at a camping and canoeing trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and have been hearing all kinds of things, good and bad, about the bears up there.  Some say they're small, no problem, just follow the directions and don't tempt the bears with food and other goodies.  Others say they can be a real danger.  So we're cautiously optimistic and telling people about our plans.  That gives them a chance to report back with a story like this one.
Some guys from SD were up in that area canoeing, fishing  and drinking.  They didn't follow the guidelines.  They caught some fish and cleaned them in the camp.  So here comes a bear, bothering the campers.  Since they've got firearms along, they shoot the bear.  Bad news.  So they've got a dead bear in their camp now and realize they will be in trouble with fines to come.  They roll the bear down to the lake, tie it to the canoe, and row the carcass out to the middle of the lake, where they weight it down with rocks.  When they see the bear sink, they also see that the bear is still visible, at the bottom of the shallow lake, good clear Minnesota water, and the chains, rocks, and bear are there for anyone in a boat (or probably a plane) to see.
Smart guys.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Picking Up the Pieces

I helped yesterday as a friend here in Madison was faced with the task of cleaning out his mother's room after she passed away over the weekend.  The job was a simple one--clear away all of her things from the room, load it in our vehicles, and deposit it in his garage.  Simple.  But clearing away the last remnants of a person's effects, even after they have dwindled to what fits in a closet and a few drawers, is never easy.
She was already disappearing from the home when we got there.  The letters of her name had already been taken off the directory.  Her name had been wiped from the board outside her door.  A few items did have address labels with her name on them, preparation for this moment when the person is not their to claim their possessions.  They have none any more, not even the physical form they once inhabited.  They're gone.  I imagine the room there now, 9 West, cleaned and ready for the next traveler.
His mother had been fading for a while, and there were few signs of what might have been important to her at one time.  No vacation photos, no shots of children or grandchildren.  No portraits of her and her husband when they were younger.  No signs of hobbies or treasured keepsakes.  She had been reduced to the simplest of lives until I suppose it was easy to leave it.
My own mother spent the afternoon preparing for a trip of her own, a physical one that meant she had belongings to attend to, objects to gather up for the journey or prepare to leave behind.  She too is reducing, eliminating objects to allow herself to move quickly and lightly.  Having just turned 80, she is not ready to give up this life, and she enjoys the messy ends of it still.  So do I.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Senior Games in Madison--and More

The weekend passed with some significant physical activity, beginning with a 10K time trial on my bike, part of the Madison city Senior Games for us over-50 crowd.  The wind was howling that evening from the south, which meant we got to ride with the wind as we headed out, whisking along like the breeze until the turn, when we turned south into the gale.  Then it was like one of the mountainous climbs on the Tour de France, a constant pushing against a steady gravitational wind. The last uphill push to the finish was enough to bring you to tears.  But it's that kind of thing that makes you feel alive.

Then Saturday the wife and I went for a little canoe ride out at Lake Herman, about our fourth or fifth as we prepare for a canoeing adventure in northern Minnesota.

Finally then it was back to the Senior Games for the 1500 meters up at Trojan Field, where I managed to run a 5:49 time, which translates (sort of) to a 6:16 mile.  Not bad, but I couldn't help thinking that a little practice could peel some time off that.

Sunday we spent some time at the wife's folks' place, enjoying some social time with family and folks from Sioux Falls and beyond.  Not a bad weekend at all.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Remembering the Fourth

Having just read the book Founding Brothers by Joseph J. Ellis this summer, I'm starting the day today, Independence Day, mindful of the significance of that day in history.  I imagine the anxiety and commitment by those who signed the Declaration of Independence, anticipating the difficulties that lay before them.  They were visionary men.

But the day is also one filled with my own memories of celebrations and events, from throwing firecrackers as a kid to being an adult who watches others take the risks of explosives.  It's also about the time of the beginning and end of my military commitment, going into and coming out of the Army.

In any case, I mark the day as one filled with memories of celebrations good and . . . interesting.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Father-Son Roofing Teamwork

Here's a late note on one of this summer's projects.  We got a new roof on our giant porch, courtesy of son Casey Nelson and some hard work.  It turned out to be an easier project than I had feared, and it gave me and Casey a chance to connect over working side by side for a while.  We also got a chance to  cruise around town looking for stuff to gather from the city-wide cleanup (mostly bikes) and to knock down Grandma Rose's rickety shed in the back yard, helped by my brother Jim.  It was an excellent visit and I look forward to the next one.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Wenks' Chicken Nightmare Warehouse

I just saw this ad on Craigslist for a set of buildings that I run past often south and west of Madison, out past the grain elevators.  It's the old Wenks Chicken Factory, a series of corrugated metal buildings that have been abandoned ever since I've been in Madison.  It always looks to me like the set for some apocalyptic horror movie, like some disaster struck and everyone disappeared suddenly, or maybe an evil scientist set up  an assembly line for building some world-domination gizmos.

I'm struck by some of the pictures that have been uploaded to the Picasa web album the ad links to; it's available here:  https://picasaweb.google.com/109076386369885516606/SD?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCKHp5Y7v0afy5gE&feat=directlink

Check out this pic, for example:
Explain to me how this photo makes you want to buy the buildings, despite those nice rafters.  

The Picasa album is identified as being owned by Scott Mahar, who is not listed in the Madison directory.  I found a Scott Mahar in Fargo who's in engineering.  There must be a new factory of some sort coming in here.  Maybe the one from Arlington?  I thought that one was going in at the industrial park.  

Tell me, though, don't some of these pics look like they would be great for a horror movie?  My friend JH says working there was a horror in itself.  I can see it.  Ever been in a chicken coop?  Imagine that times 10,000.  Or more.  Nasty.  

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

All the Way to Toronto and Home Again

Guess what city is the fourth largest city in North America.  I mean, after Mexico City, New York, and Los Angeles.   Got it?  Toronto?  You're right!

My colleague Stacey Berry and I returned from a great trip to the big city on Sunday after spending three days and nights, conferencing with folks from HASTAC, the Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advanced Collaboratory.  It was the best tech/humanities conference I've been to, with great speakers, great demonstrations, and great ideas.  Below, one of the pictures shows a project by York University librarians allowing you to "Digitize or Destroy" a book.  Select a book, and you can shred it or save it.  Or both!

Speakers included the following:
Kia Ng,  Director and co-founder of Interdisciplinary Centre for Scientific Research in Music (ICSRiM), University of Leeds
Joseph Tabbi, a leading authority on the effects of new technologies on contemporary  fiction and Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Paola Antonelli, Director of Research and Development and Senior Curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art
Stacey and I came away with many ideas that we have in mind to implement in future classes.  Good deal!  

Digitize or Destroy?  Your librarian lets you choose.  

A cool computerized motion thing.

One of the presentations under way.  

Monday, April 15, 2013

How to Edit

A great e-book shared by one of my students shows how to kill a word.  Not just one--many.  Watch them fall.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

A Snow Day. Relax!

The snow kept coming down today, and we just got a notice that there won't be school tomorrow, so it's an opportunity to relax a bit (just a bit!) and go back over some pictures from the past weekend in Minneapolis.
One of my favorite photos is this one from my visit to the Highland Grille in Minneapolis with my daughter, her boyfriend, and their little bundle of joy.  She was a good little trooper and already is a little sweetheart.

Standing There with the Fridge Open

Freezing rain and snow this morning has closed places all over the state, and as I sit comfortably in our "Red Room" on our comfy couch with a considerable amount of coffee in a cup, I'm hoping my students are not slipping and sliding all over the road trying to get to my 9:30 class.
The grass was just beginning to turn green.  Lilac buds were heavy.  Frost, like our spirits, was rising and disappearing from the ground.  My heavy coat was getting its first few days of dust.
Forecast today?  Freezing rain and sleet.  Tonight?  Snow and sleet.  Tomorrow?  Snow.  Tomorrow night?  Occasional snow.  Thursday?  Snow likely.  Thursday night?  A slight chance of snow.
In all, it might be as much as four inches of snow.  Highs in the 20's.
There's always something to be said about the weather.  We'll get to that point in the year when it's good words, but for now, we can only say we're tired of this winter and wish it was leave us a little more spring.  We haven't had much yet.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Thank You, Molly Freier, Wherever You Are

When I inherited my office and my desk from my predecessor, way back in 1996-97, I found a number of items in the main drawer that were left, perhaps as a courtesy to a person new to DSU (but not to teaching). Among the items there, I found a little basic sewing kit in a little plastic sleeve, marked Dakota State College with our address.  Hence, before DSU became DSU and was still DSC.

In the kit is a little folding scissors, a needle, a threader (don't know what that is?  you will when you turn 40), and a bit of cardboard that is wound with six colors of string:  black (almost gone), white (not much there), blue and tan (which seem to have been used a little) and pink and yellow.  The last two colors seem almost untouched.

The item became useful today when my nice flashy Jerry Garcia brand tie (what's that Dead member doing on a tie, anyway?) popped it's little holder loose.  You know, the little panel on the back of the main tie that you tuck the skinny end of the tie in?  That had one loose mangy stitch in it, and it failed.  Now it's back in order.

I can't imagine that sewing kit being much of a swag item, but perhaps in those days students still might mend their own clothing.  It could have been part of a "welcome to college" kit they handed to students.  Still, it's nice to know if the time comes when I NEED some yellow or pink thread, all I have to do is whisk my desk drawer open, get out my little sewing kit, and proceed.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Going on Tour

I'm looking forward to heading for Minneapolis for the MnWE (Minnesota Writing and English) Conference.  This will give me another chance to talk about the great English for New Media program at Dakota State University and the work that people do here.  Goodo for us!

Monday, April 01, 2013

The Busy vs. the Happy

Keep calm.  Think about the now.  Be in the moment.  Carry no baggage.

I'm thinking about the characteristics of happy people, having read a recent blog post on Successify:  http://successify.net/2012/10/31/22-things-happy-people-do-differently/.

I've said yes to so many things that my April, as I face it here on the first, is proving to look like a month-long gauntlet, finishing up as it will with a trip to Toronto to present at the HASTAC Conference, which I am definitely looking forward to.

In the meantime, it's worthwhile to consider how I got here, feeling a bit overwhelmed (and so early in the morning!).

  • I'm doing the ACT prep session for high school kids tonight.
  • My daughter's 30th birthday is Wednesday.  
  • I'm helping some with the DSU play, Xanadu, this week.
  • I'm presenting at a conference in Minneapolis on Friday.
  • I've got committee duties that I'll have to get caught up on when I get back.  
  • The last day to drop a course is Wednesday, so my grades need to be up to date.
  • My grandaughter's first birthday is the 13th, with a birthday party in Minneapolis. 
  • I'm the advisor for Sigma Tau Delta at DSU, and our spring banquet is on the 18th. 
  • I'm doing a reading for a performance with my Indian dancing colleage Shreelina Ghosh on April 20 (Saturday).  (We are practicing today).  
  • Shreelina, Stacey Berry, and I are presenting at the HASTAC Conference on the 26th.  
  • Last days of classes
  • Finals

Plus, there is the day to day.  I have papers to grade.  I have classes to prepare for.  I'd like to finish the back entry.  I'd like to get out my motorcycle.  I'd like to get my OTHER motorcycle working right.  I'd like to have some happy simple days at home.  I'd like to get together with my colleagues and friends.

So, anyway, I'm busy.  But we had a good weekend with my daughter, her man, and their little babe.  And we spent time with the wife's family, something we haven't done a lot of recently.

Meanwhile, I'll try to do the things that happy people do.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Center of the Community

My trip to the Madison Community Center this evening was a reminder of just how much the place plays in the life of the community.   From people on the track and in the pool, to a class in the workout room, to the guy sitting on a machine reading his Kindle while he worked out his legs, it was a busy evening there.  The handball courts were busy, and some folks were lifting weights.  All the treadmills were busy.  But the real crowd was down in one of the gyms, where it was Dr. Seuss night, which brought families with the young ones, lining up to get tattoos, make hats, and pick up some green eggs and ham.

I'm reminded of much of the resistance that the proposal for the community center had when it was still in the planning stages.  "Nobody will go there," some said.  But there they are!  If you look at the photos, you can see the lines go out the door, kids waiting with their parents to come into our Madison Community Center.

Monday, February 18, 2013

It's Smoothie Country

Two Healthy Smoothies
After we got our new Ninja blender at Christmas time, it sat in the pantry without being used.  But that changed when the wife and I decided we needed to change our eating habits and do something different to be more healthy.  So it's had a lot of use in the last three weeks, and we have taken in a lot more fruits and vegetables since then.
On most mornings, we start with some pineapple, bananas, berries, yogurt, and a variety of other things we find rummaging around in our refrigerator.  We've made a staple of kale, for example, grinding it fine and freezing it in ice cube trays which we can throw in with the fruit.  Spinach, too.  It made a difference to blend those leafy veggies beforehand; the first ones we made were bulky and chewy and too much like a salad.
The Ninja makes good work of it all; it's no-nonsense and blends things well, its whirling Ninja blades getting the mixture to rise and blend and fall until the consistency is good and thick, but not chewy.
So far it seems to have done us good, and the flavor is super tasty.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Morning View, Ash Wednesday, Writing

View from my office, 2/13/13
Every morning I come down the stairs and look out the east window of our big old house and see the view beyond our yard, the neighbor's yard, and across the park.  It's a good view, summer and winter, and the sky is often a treat as the sun comes up and the colors rise and glow and fade with the morning.  It's a good view, this morning of Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, the period of denial and contemplation of sacrifice.  At least for some.
But of course tomorrow is Valentine's Day, a day to celebrate love, relationships, tenderness and passion.
Today I'm working on a story I plan to read tomorrow for the memoir series at the Smith-Zimmermann Museum, following some of the others that have read and talked about their own stories.  It's coming together, but I'm sure wishing it were more finished than it is now.
Apparently the story of my reading is on the front page of the Madison Daily Leader (print edition).  This morning I'm working on family background.  I'm reading a piece I've tentatively called "Have You Heard the One about the Cowboy and the Farmer's Daughter?"  It's about my mother and father's courtship and early marriage.  We'll see how it goes.  Today will be a test.  If you're interested, it's at noon at the museum, February 14.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

A Marlin on the Wall

Our birthday present to a young fisherman has found its home.  Kudos to his mom and dad for taking the time and effort to find the fish a spot and get it hung up in the garage.  It's just the kind of spot he needs to hang!

Thanks too to friends Andre and Stacey, who decided the poor decrepit fish was too much to handle and were looking to give him away.  It all turned out great!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bringing a Big Fish Back to Life (sort of)

The marlin after. 
     When friends Stacey and Andre offered a seven-foot stuffed marlin to me, I knew it was the perfect gift for a young nephew who loves fishing.  The poor marlin was in pretty rough shape, though, with some of his hide missing, the coating gone, and his tail broken off.  He also had his one eye painted over with a silver star.
     I looked on the internet for tips on how to restore the poor beast, but there wasn't a lot available.  Apparently, people rarely work with the carcass of the fish any more when they want a mount.  Rather, they make a cast of the fish and simply have a replica of the fish they caught to hang on the wall.
     But this boy is the real deal, real fins, real scales, real spike up front.  I suppose it makes the whole thing a little more difficult to deal with.
      I didn't end up with a perfect fish, but it does look okay in the photos, and once it's hung on the wall, far enough up that you can't see the flaws so vividly, it will look good.  And I think the boy is a happy camper.
The marlin before

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The New Me

I'm a fan of strange, odd, interesting, new (as well as the familiar, ordinary, boring, and old, but that's another matter), so my interest in all the cool Chrome Experiments is strong.  So here I am in one of them, a very intriguing portrait, don't you think?  It's the Web Cam Mesh.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Starting a Cold New School Year

I might have one of the least stressful jobs in the world (yeah, right), but the run up to the semester is never easy when you're trying to stay on the cutting edge of technology that is always changing and helping students prepare for a work environment that keeps changing right along with it.  I think of it being a bit like starting up the cold car in the mornings--a little reluctant, slow to fire, but ready to come to life once the big battery (the students themselves) kick in.  Looking forward to a good year, with four different classes on my docket, all with new textbooks and new technology.  No stress there, thanks!

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Replacing Maxima Headlights

I wasn't satisfied with the photos in my automotive manual on how to replace the headlights on my 1998 Nissan Maxima, so I took a few photos while I was doing the job myself.  I hope if anyone sees this they find it useful. 

First Ski

Lake Herman ski trail, December 29, 2012
Last winter we didn't get enough snow to make it worthwhile to dust of the skis and bring them out of the garage, but this year it's a little different.  We've had some snow stay on the ground, and with a few sunny windless days, there has been an opportunity to get out to the park and have a little quiet time in the woods. A good way to end the year.